Americans Abroad, 2020-21: The Kids Are Alright

rguilmar

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Oh, I'm just assuming Davies is a winger now, after how they used him in the Champions League. I realize he can play LB, but it seems like they're (still) running Alaba out there in that spot most of the time and sending him forward, where his combination of speed and strength makes him a real problem for defending RBs. He was basically an end-line-penetration-and-cross machine, every Bayern match I watched.
I imagine with Sane coming in to Bayern that Davies will be back to LB in a 4-2-3-1 with Alaba and Sule as CB and Pavard on the right.

Back to the Yanks, how crazy good has the past month or so been? McKennie goes to Juve and really seems to have a role to play there, Dest is in a rumored transfer battle between the two great FCBs (Bayern and Barca), Pulisic is given the #10 at Chelsea (Lampard's commentary was great- he wanted to give Christian the number AND Pulisic wanted it), Adams is back playing at RB Leipzig in the starting 11, Konrad de la Fuente might possibly maybe be Barca material, Gio Reyna is carving out a role for himself at Dortmund, Antonee Robinson landing back in the Prem (legit health concerns after the deal to Milan collapsed), Llanez has a new contract at Wolfsburg/loaned to Heerenveen. I'm sure I'm forgetting some moves and rumors. Sure the Pomykal surgery sucks, but overall I'll take it.

TB, any idea if/when players like Brenden Aaronson go to Europe? Is this transfer market just too hectic with the Covid implications? Or are Americans seen as a sort of "market efficiency" right now?
 

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This would be such a joyously golden era for the MNT already if it weren't for the facts that:

- much of the young talent we're counting on hasn't played together,
- they will shortly be going up against CONCACAF NTs that have played together for years and years,
- the opportunities to play together between now and when they will need to play for real stakes are diminishing rapidly, and
- our manager is not regarded as any sort of brilliant tactical mind and got his job through nepotism

I guess the game right now is to just survive and somehow qualify for 2022, Hex (Ocho?) be damned, and however that goes, view 2026 as the time when the world will witness the power of this fully operational battle station.
 

Titans Bastard

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Indiana Vassilev has gone on loan from Aston Villa to Burton Albion in League One. This should be a good opportunity to get first team experience. Vassilev did see the field for Aston Villa at times last year, but it was mostly due to an injury crisis. I think he would have spent the year with the U23s had he not taken this loan.

View: https://twitter.com/burtonalbionfc/status/1306624178855055363
 

Titans Bastard

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Chris Richards came on for the last 17 minutes for Bayern to help protect a...7-0 lead against Schalke. Nice to get him on the field. He didn't have all that much to do, but he did have to deal with one dangerous counterattack, and managed to close down the attacker and force a shot into the side netting.
 

Jimy Hendrix

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Chris Richards came on for the last 17 minutes for Bayern to help protect a...7-0 lead against Schalke. Nice to get him on the field. He didn't have all that much to do, but he did have to deal with one dangerous counterattack, and managed to close down the attacker and force a shot into the side netting.
To react completely seriously and totally appropriately.

Phonzie OUT, Richards IN!

USA! USA! USA!
 

Jimy Hendrix

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Sargent having a rough game at left midfield, possibly on account of that not being his position
 

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Europa League 2nd Qualifying Round

Today, Aron Jóhannsson started but Hammarby got stuffed 3-0 at home by Lech Poznań.

In the bulk of the round's matches tomorrow:

Maccabi Haifa (Josh Cohen) vs. Kairat
Lokomotiv Plovdiv vs. Tottenham (CCV, but not really)
Laçi (Kyrian Nwabueze) vs. Hapoel Be'er Sheva
Lincoln Red Imps (Ahinga Selemani) vs. Rangers
Kukësi vs. Wolfsburg (John Brooks)
Josh Cohen started in goal as Maccabi Haifa beat Kairat 2-1.

CCV actually made the bench in Spus' 2-1 win.

Nwabueze scored for Laçi, but they ended up losing 2-1 after giving up goals at 90' and 90'+3'

Lincoln got stuffed by Rangers. Selemani didn't dress.

Brooks wasn't in the 18 for an easy Wolfsburg win over Albanian opposition.

Gatt wasn't in the 18 for Dundalk's 1-0 win over an Andorran club. He sadly seems to be always injured

3rd Qualifying Round
Sheriff Tiraspol vs. Dundalk (Josh Gatt)
Riga vs. Celtic (Cameron Harper)
Mura vs. PSV Eindhoven (Richie Ledezma)
Wolfsburg (John Brooks) vs. Desna Chernihiv
Shkëndija vs. Tottenham (CCV)
Rostov vs. Maccabi Haifa (Josh Cohen)
Beşiktaş (Boyd) vs. Rio Ave
Viktoria Plzeň vs. SønderjyskE (Haji Wright)

Playoff Round
Jordan Siebacheu (Young Boys)

Group Stage
Tim Weah (Lille)
 

Titans Bastard

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Reyna starts at attacking midfield for Dortmund against Gladbach.

Julian Brandt and Marco Reus are on the bench.

You love to see it.
 

cromulence

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Saw some of it, and he looked like he belonged. On the second goal, he went up for the same ball off a corner as Bonucci and sorta kinda got in his way, but then in the ensuing scramble he almost poked it in, forcing a save, and then Bonucci scored off the rebound.
 

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Yeah I only caught the highlights, but he made a couple of plays even in those. Aside from that goal (and unless his responsibility was different, that was a crime of aggression, easily the best kind of mistake to make), he also made some tackles that sprang attacks. You'll hear his name a lot in those highlights.

Pirlo must like him.
 

rguilmar

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Caught most of the game. He looked good for the most part. Juve lined up in a 3-5-2 with McKennie, Rabiot, and Ramsey playing in the middle. Ramsey had license to roam and seemed to stay out wide left a lot. Weston basically had the old Matuidi role as was expected. Rabiot mostly slotted in front of the back three cleaning up anything that got through and pulling the strings. The strange thing was when Bentancur came on for Cuadrado. He basically took McKennie's spot on the field with Weston moving to RWB. Not sure if Pirlo was experimenting, but you would expect Bentancur just behind the strikers.

McKennie had one shot cleared off the line (goal might not have been his as it looked to be deflected), another solid drive in the first half, and the aforementioned shot that led to the second goal. A lot of pressuring, forcing Samp back, breaking up attacks, and several crunching tackles. He's the best at Juve at that particular aspect of the game. Will be fun to see how Arthur, Dybala, and Bentancur are used, but he seems to have his role carved out nicely.
 

Jimy Hendrix

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Saw the whole Juventus game. Broad thoughts.

View: https://twitter.com/watke_/status/1307781336300752902
comp for reference

- Probably more of a 6 than an 8, but hybridized in classic McKennie fashion. Kinda hard to tell because a 6 for Juventus playing Sampdoria is going to spend a lot of time on the outside of Sampdoria's box as well as right in front of his CBs, let alone an 8.
- Very sharp on tackling and interceptions. The slide tackle at about 30sec on this comp is probably the specific one to pinpoint that got him an "Instant cult figure" review from Gazzetto dello Sport
- Passing both a bit better and as times a bit worse than expected
- The good: some sharp passing in tight areas, continued showing more range than some people might expect, high completion percentage
- The bad: There was some passing that didn't show up in the statsheet as anything but completed passes but was loose. Stuff like passes in the build up that you want 5 yards ahead of a guy to run onto, but were 5 years behind a guy. Sampdoria wasn't pressing much, but it's the kind of stuff that would likely be a press trigger against a more intense team.I suspect it was this sorta stuff that Pirlo was referenced in the "measured criticism" part of his complement sandwich press conference reaction to McKennie's performance.
- He wasn't in the box for most set piece deliveries, but was outside the box and got into the mix for some of them and that's where he damn near had two goals. I think they'll get him in there eventually, he's too good, but I can see why the initial setup given how good he is against counters and how many CBs and CR7s they've got who all want a piece of that corner kick.
- He did play RWB for the last 20 minutes or so. I don't think Juventus are going to jerk him around the way Schalke did (particularly under Tedesco), but I do think his versatility has been noticed and will sometimes be used to help solve problems (eg. a midfielder heavy, fullback light bench).
 

67YAZ

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Good piece in the Guardian that draws on Pirlo's just submitted thesis for his Continental Pro license. Pirlo wants width from FBs and wingers, players to form diamonds around the ball in possession to give 4 options at all times (!), quick passing that takes the attack to the opponent, and don't allow the defense to set up and then counter.

Words on the page and tactics on the pitch are clearly very different things, but sounds to me like Pirlo's midfielders will have to constantly anticipate space and make themselves available to receive the ball, make (or preferably already have made) decisions about how to progress the attack when they do receive, and then patrol a ton of space in the middle against counters. If McKennie learns how to become that midfielder at the mega-club level, then shiiiitttttt...the USMNT has got a ton of possibilities when constructing the midfield.
 
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SocrManiac

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Think about how Pirlo played. He was always lightly jogging to the ball. Always. He wanted his teammates to have an immediate option from him. It sounds like he's trying to institutionalize that. It's dovetails nicely with his talk of the Netherlands total football approach.

There was a piece that went by this weekend I can no longer find about the dearth of Pirlo's playing style: Xabi Alonso, Iniesta, Scholes... The regista that plays in something of a CDM position but less of an enforcer (like Fernandinho/Fabinho). The article argued that the role is counter to the physical attributes currently in demand and therefore players that might develop into the type are never given the opportunity. It would be interesting to try to create the role from a group of less talented and aware players, but have them work together to the same type of end. It's not Tiki-Taka: it doesn't demand the one touch play front to back, but creates space and opportunities by creating tons of small-medium level options for every player on the pitch.
 

Jed Zeppelin

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Good piece in the Guardian that draws on Pirlo's just submitted thesis for his Continental Pro license. Pirlo wants width from FBs and wingers, players to form diamonds around the ball in possession to give 4 options at all times (!), quick passing that takes the attack to the opponent, and don't allow the defense to set up and then counter.

Words on the page and tactics on the pitch are clearly very different things, but sounds to me like Pirlo's midfielders will have to constantly anticipate space and make themselves available to receive the ball, make (or preferably already have made) decisions about how to progress the attack when they do receive, and then patrol a ton of space in the middle against counters. If McKennie learns how to become that midfielder at the mega-club level, then shiiiitttttt...the USMNT has got a ton of possibilities when constructing the midfield.
Quite a contrast from the standard USMNT style of only having 0 or 1 teammates available for a pass near the ball at any given moment.
 

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Do we really think Dest would prefer Barca? More managerial / administrative chaos, even if the path to him starting is much clearer, given they just sold their RB Semedo to Wolves, and given Jordi Alba's age at LB. But at Bayern, you've got Alaba (28) at LB, Kimmich (25) at RB. Talk about an enviable choice, but I'm not sure it's an obvious one.
 

cromulence

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There are a few pictures going around Twitter of him wearing Barca stuff when he was younger, so it's probably less about logic and more about what his heart/inner child wants.
 

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This is total speculation, but I wonder if players who come through Ajax's system have some natural affinity for Barcelona given the major stylistic influence that Johan Cruyff has had on both clubs.
 

Titans Bastard

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Meanwhile, Zack Steffen starts for Manchester City in a League Cup game against Bournemouth.
 

rguilmar

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This is total speculation, but I wonder if players who come through Ajax's system have some natural affinity for Barcelona given the major stylistic influence that Johan Cruyff has had on both clubs.
There is the recent history of an Ajax player being slotted into a major role at Barca in de Jong as well.

It's easy to look at the current and upcoming dumpster fire that is Barcelona and compare it unfavorably to Bayern. Who wouldn't want to join the current CL winners and perennial treble challenging squad? That being said:
1. Barca do have that Dutch connection historically and currently
2. They are not in a position of buying for luxury like Bayern. They are only buying players they need, so if Barca wants Dest, they need Dest.
3. Barcelona are at the beginning of a complete remake of their squad. Suarez is gone. Vidal is gone. Messi most likely is leaving next summer. Busquets and Pique will need to be replaced soon (and potentially Alba). They would sell pretty much anyone else on their roster right now (I've read that the For Sale sign is currently hanging on Umtiti, Tobido, Firpo, Griezman, Dembele and basically anyone not named Ter Stagen and de Jong). More importantly, they can't even afford to buy frickin Memphis Depay without selling other players! Long story short, anyone joining Barca now will have a major role in the squad for a while. Sergino could go there, potentially start, and not be looking over his shoulder with every mistake.
4. I could be misremembering, but didn't Bayern just buy an outside back last year who basically never saw the pitch?
5. I'm a Barca fan and am clearly biased.
 

cromulence

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Literally a minute after I turn it on, City concedes. Not Steffen's fault at all, though.
 

cromulence

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Good showing from Steffen. He obviously didn't have a lot to do, but he had no chance on the goal, made a great play to stop a chance that likely would've been a goal, and his distribution was basically perfect from what I saw. Even his long balls were always right on the head of a teammate.
 

teddykgb

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He was good. The comparison point is Ederson so I was terrified when it was played to his feet but aside from scaring the shit out of me he did Ok. Accurate door a keeper on the whole and it will be good for him to get used to that aspect
 

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Josh Cohen started in goal as Maccabi Haifa beat Kairat 2-1.

CCV actually made the bench in Spus' 2-1 win.

Nwabueze scored for Laçi, but they ended up losing 2-1 after giving up goals at 90' and 90'+3'

Lincoln got stuffed by Rangers. Selemani didn't dress.

Brooks wasn't in the 18 for an easy Wolfsburg win over Albanian opposition.

Gatt wasn't in the 18 for Dundalk's 1-0 win over an Andorran club. He sadly seems to be always injured

3rd Qualifying Round
Sheriff Tiraspol vs. Dundalk (Josh Gatt)
Riga vs. Celtic (Cameron Harper)
Mura vs. PSV Eindhoven (Richie Ledezma)
Wolfsburg (John Brooks) vs. Desna Chernihiv
Shkëndija vs. Tottenham (CCV)
Rostov vs. Maccabi Haifa (Josh Cohen)
Beşiktaş (Boyd) vs. Rio Ave
Viktoria Plzeň vs. SønderjyskE (Haji Wright)

Playoff Round
Jordan Siebacheu (Young Boys)

Group Stage
Tim Weah (Lille)
Gatt is injured but Dundalk advanced past Sheriff on penalties. In UEFA qualifiers, the draw for the next round is made before the previous round is concluded. As a result, if you beat a higher-seeded team, you inherit their seeding for the next round. Normally they wait until the 3rd round is done so they can fully re-seed before the playoff round draw. However, the accelerated COVID timing means that Dundalk has been drawn with KÍ of the Faroe Islands. Amazing chance for an Irish club to get into the group stage.

Harper wasn't in the squad for Celtic's win over Riga. It would be nice if he got a decent loan this year, as I'm not sure if he has a realistic chance to play much for the first team.

PSV easily beat Mura. Ledezma is with the reserve team for now.

Brooks came off the bench for Wolfsburg in a win over Desna Chernihiv.

CCV didn't make the squad in Tottenham's adventure in North Macedonia. Loan or, better yet, sale please.

Josh Cohen started in Maccabi Haifa's very nice road win over Rostov. Unfortunately for them, they've drawn Spurs in the next round.

Beşiktaş were knocked out on PKs. Boyd started and was subbed off late in the first half when they were still up 1-0.

SønderjyskE were trounced; Haji Wright came off the bench.

Playoff Round
Young Boys (Siebatcheu) vs. Tirana
Sarajevo vs. Celtic (Harper)
Dundalk (Gatt) vs. KÍ
Rosenborg vs. PSV Eindhoven (Ledezma)
AEK Athens vs. Wolfsburg (Brooks)
Tottenham Hotspur (CCV) vs. Maccabi Haifa (Cohen)

Group Stage
Tim Weah (Lille)



Meanwhile in the Champions League, the playoff round first legs were played this week. Red Bull Salzburg (Marsch, Aaronson(?)) beat Maccabi Tel Aviv on the road. Molde (Wingo) drew with Ferencváros at home.
 

Jimy Hendrix

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People always talked up Steffen’s distribution to a level higher than I was ever seeing with the national team, but damned if he didn’t look like a Man City keeper out there. I hope this translates to future USMNT matches.
 

Titans Bastard

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Leon Flach made his debut for St. Pauli today. He's a German-American LB/DM who has been part of the current US U20 cycle.
 

Quintanariffic

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I haven't seen a comp from this weekend's game for Sargent, but in the 75% of it I watched, he was responsible for creating all of the moments of danger and probably should have had 1-2 goals of his own with tidier finishing in the box. I think we sort of knew this post-COVID break, but to my eye Sargent has taken an important step forward both with his observed quality of play and (related, of course) his standing at Werder. I'll be surprised if Sargent doesn't get over 2000 minutes with the first team across all comps this year.
 

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Yeah let's hope Sargent can keep it up, whereas Bobby Wood was just a flash in the pan.

I dunno when he passes Altidore as first-choice CF, but it's probably going to involve a whole lot of competitive experience with the NT.
 

Quintanariffic

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Yeah let's hope Sargent can keep it up, whereas Bobby Wood was just a flash in the pan.

I dunno when he passes Altidore as first-choice CF, but it's probably going to involve a whole lot of competitive experience with the NT.
Agree on Sargent vs. Wood.

In terms of overcoming Jozy as first-choice striker, I'm not sure the gulf is as wide as you state. Hell, even Matt Doyle - as big an MLS homer as there is - said he wouldn't trust Jozy to give you 90 good minutes at this stage of his career. Basically implied that Jozy circa 2020 is a shadow of himself and that he'd take either Sargent or Zardes over him rt now.
 

Titans Bastard

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Jozy is just too fragile to be trusted. Also, it's still a small sample but his G+A/90 has really fallen off so far in 2020. With his injury history, he's not the sort of player you'd expect to remain productive in his 30s, and he'll be 31 in November.

P.S. I think Doyle's reputation as an MLS homer is significantly overstated.
 

cromulence

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Reyna and Richards both in off the bench in the Super Cup - and Richards is at RB, which is interesting.
 

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Zach Steffen wasn't asked to do too much in the game at Burnley today, but he did it and got a clean sheet for his troubles.

View: https://twitter.com/usmntonly/status/1311393141791100930


Pep Guardiola had some nice things to say about Steffen's first game last week: "He was calm. He was safe. He gave a good performance."

Matt Turner, however, has suddenly come up with a posse.

View: https://twitter.com/Altiscore/status/1311453956409786369


Finally, if ever a caption contest were needed, it's here:
View: https://twitter.com/usmntonly/status/1311341707921895424
 

dirtynine

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“Dude, they’re calling it a ‘Golden Generation’ - I think Portugal had one of those when I was a kid.”
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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Dest has officially moved to Barcelona. He'll get a real chance to win the starting RB position too.

If you were to lay odds a year ago on "Sergino Dest to be starting for Barcelona within a year" what would they have been? Two billion to one?